Jillian was not what Terry had expected. She seemed so boring in classes, so disinterested in anything Terry liked to do, that he usually paid her no mind. But when she asked him to walk her back to the dorms, everything changed.
"Wait, you know about Dragon Con?" he asked her as they strolled along the darkening pathways that meandered through the quad.
"Of course I do. I go every year. this year I'm going as a Brown Coat!" There was more than a hint of pride in her voice.
A girl who likes Firefly? This has got to be a setup, Terry thought to himself and looked around briefly to see if there were any lurkers or hidden cameras. He found none. When he looked back at her, a picture of a cop appeared in his vision, blocking her out.
"New South Carolina state law means you might be paying too much for car insurance. Want to learn more? Yes. No." Terry winced and tapped the small metal disc placed on his temple. Ever since he installed wireless service to the Haptic Network, he had started seeing these little pop-ups in his vision. Brain-to-brain connection had its downside.
"No." he said, and the screen vanished.
"No?" asked Jillian. "Oh. Is there someone else you want to go with?"
Terry Fuller flushed with guilt. "What? I'm sorry, I didn't hear the full question."
Jillian looked at him funny. "Are you alright? I asked if you wanted to go with me. It's next month."
"Of course!" Terry answered. "I usually meet up with some online friends there, but they tend to ditch me once the forums get interesting."
"Good!" Jillian giggled and brushed her bangs out of her face. He loved watching her like that as the sun went down behind the-
Suddenly Terry heard a news program start up from nowhere. In the corner of his vision he could just make out the small video that had begun to play.
"Close." he commanded. The video shut off.
"Hmm?" Jillian asked.
"What? Oh, um… which dorm is yours? Are we close?" He thought that was a rather clever recovery. She probably wouldn't like him if she found out he had somehow acquired malware. She'd like him even less if she knew which site he got it from.
"Yeah, mine is Henry Hall," she said and pointed to a nearby dormitory. They continued for some time in silence, with the occasional glance from one to the other as their only conversation. When they finally made it to the entry of Henry Hall, Jillian stopped in front of it.
"Terry, I'm always nervous around guys, but I feel I can relax with you" she said. "I really like you, and I…"
"This mother lost 52 pounds following one simple trick!"
"Say 'yes' now for a free* shipment of acai berries, the next big health craze."
"Want to find an adult friend now? Yes or no."
The pop-up ads were getting worse. Terry was finding it hard to concentrate on what Jillian was saying. He reached up and tapped on the implant to try to turn it off, but there was no change.
"I'm sorry, what?" he asked. "I got distracted for a minute. I don't know where my mind went." Two of the windows closed and he could once again see Jillian's face. She was blushing and looking around nervously.
"I said, 'Do you want to come up?'" Her voice was hardly more than a whisper.
"Yes," Terry said, but just before the word left his lips, another pop-up filled his vision.
"Have poor credit? No worries! Just say 'yes' to apply for our new credit card with 0% APR*" As the screen vanished Terry picked up on some key words, things like, "52% interest," "$500 fee," and "medical experimentation."
"What? No, cancel!" Terry said quickly and looked away from Jillian.
"Cancel? What's wrong? Terry, are you sick?"
He looked up at her full of worry and stress. "What? No, not cancel you, I mean, I want to go up with you. I'm just having problems with my… wireless connection."
"Your wireless connection?" Jillian asked, raising an eyebrow.
At this point, the pop-ups were out of control. Ever second, another would fill part of Terry's vision. He gripped his hair with both hands. "I can't… aaagh!!" he screamed and ran away, as if that would distance him from the ads.
Jillian just stood there, watching him go. "Darn, lost another one. Maybe I'm too forward. Well, I guess I can try that dating site again."